Interview with Phil Thornton (Part 1)

casuals-coverIn the 80’s the look of casuals variedalmost every month. People discoveredand stole new clothes in ski resorts inthe Alps or European trips that theycame with their team. Currently, anyonein two hours with their computer canacquire the most exclusive items, which makes very difficult to distinguish, in addition to changes in looks go slower.
Do not you think you missed the authenticity of the movement?

I think the lack of choice in Britain in the late 70s and early 80s was the real catalyst for the trips to Austria, Switzerland, Germany mainy for the Adidas trainers in Germany and the ski wear in Austria but that was only one aspect. The lads coming over from Liverpool and Manchester was also hardcore thieves who were also robbing jewellers and safe cracking. I think it was easy pickings at the time as there was little security. Traveleling with your club was a way of providing cover but most of these items came back without any football connection. it really was ultra-competitive in those days, especially getting the latest trainers or labels. I remember the first time I saw Munsingwear and the lad who wore it was surrounded by people asking where he got it. There was also a lot of ‘jarg’ (fakes) Lacoste, Ellesse and Fila coming in from the far east and our mate’s mum used to sell it from her room as a cleaner in the bingo. it wasn’t glamorous!

It is easy to buy stuff on line and every shop, even the good ones, seem to stock all the same labels so it has become more international but also more homogenous. I think there should be more mixing and matching, new labels and classic looks. For example, the ‘retro-scal’ look of around 84 in Liverpool and the ‘scruff’ look of Manchester of the same time can be achieved with a modern twist  – second hand harris tweed and Woolrich or Clarks and Norse projects, Veras and Lois combinations.

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It seems that there are a streamdetaches casual culture of violence in the streets, focusing solely on aesthetics. Can be casual and renounce violence?

Ofcourse. In the 80s, the culture was almost always associated with football and the type of fans who ‘wore the gear’ were always the hooligan element. I think this changed in the mid 90s and 00s when a new generation came through who were maybe more into music and never went to the match. if you look at any British home game now it’s a sea of club colours and this is a modern phenomenon. It never happened before the 90s and only the hardcore ‘away mobs’ are now anything like it was in the 80s. There are also now who claim to have always been into the scene who never were and some who just don’t understand it and think they can buy into it just by wearing the right clothes but it’s always been more than mere posing.

Most of us were simply acting up and very few got involved in the really heavy violence but those who did are now in their late 40s, 50s or even 60s and it’s not dignified to be running around punching people at our age.  It’s a young man’s game, as they say and I think there movements like AMF have finally allowed different nationalities to forge a positive way forward for football fans that’s fighting the real enemy, the capitlaists and greed merchants who treat fans as consumers and clubs as franchises.

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The casual culture was one of the original movements in Britain, there are now followers of this culture throughout Europe, America, etc … What do you think the globalization of the casual culture? Do you think that you can enrich it with the inclusion of new brands or looks?

It’s taken a very long time for csual to be even recognised never mind appreciated for what it was and s till is so I;m glad that finally the look and culture is finding people who appreciate it across  the world. I think the rise of hip hop culture always meant that casual got overlooked probably because there was no real musical focus to it and it was always a bit too subtle for middle class journalists and style gurus to pick up on. The internet and new workwear and outdoor labels from the US, Europe and japan has definitely made the look far more interntional but again, there has to be something more,something original that requires a bit more imagination than simply buying into a uniform.

There are clothes, very expensive, whichare manufactured in low cost countries.What importance do you give when purchasing a garment to the country of manufacture there of?

I think all casual and clothes fanatics should be socially responsible and boycott those labels that use cheap labour. If I buy CP, I want it to be made in Italy not Indonesia. If you pay £600 for a coat that has cost £30 to manufacture in China because the workers get paid a pittance or Pakistan where they may get burned alive in sweat shops, then we as consumers or customers must be aware of collaborating with this appalling abuse of human rights, I am very left wing so I see this as a continuum from marx, the shift has been from the factories of western Europe to the sweatshops of the far east but the essential motive is the same; human greed triumphing over human rights.

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Is it true that your first contact with the world of the steps was followed to Liverpool? I understood you were ManUsupporter, correct me if I’m wrong. Mods, Skinheads, suedeheads,Bootboys, Casuals, what time was the most dangerous and violent street leveland bleachers?

It’s true I was taken to watch Liverpool by my dad when I was very young 5 or 6 on the kop in the early 70s which was then very dangerous but it was such a thrill to be part of a huge crowd stood on the terraces. This was the heyday for ‘old skool’ football aggro which went on inside th ground mostly for sometimes the entire game but it was the ‘bootboy’ era when the skinheads had died out and before the first casuals started appearing. In terms of actual violence, I’d say this was the scariest period because there was little police control, no stewards, no cameras and every club no matter how small had a mob of some kind, even at non league level. Obviously one stadiums became all seater and there was CCTV, huge police presence, spotters and tough legal sentences then it became harder and harder for hooligans. Maybe this was a good thing though. Now we are finally seeing justie for the 96 killed at Hillsborough, we never want to return to those days when the establishment treated all fans as scum to be ripped off and abused. There’s a nostalgia for the 70s and 80s because those who experienced find today’s stadiums too sterile but those days are gone and we look on with envy at the stadiums in Spain, Italy, Germany, Greece, Turkey where there are od fashioned terraces and lot sof singing and bouncing and pyro displays because you can’t even get a can of beer inside a british stadium.

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Most of these youth subcultures were born in London and from there spread through out the rest of England, and later the rest of the world. The Casual culture seems to be born in the north, Liverpool / Manchester, and from there spread toLondon and then the rest of Europe.Even today, it seems the north who sets some trends when dressing. What distinguishes the casual movement ofother subcultures?

Because british cities are so competitive, no one wants to say they followed someone else and London especially as the capital city always believes itself to be the first city to develop any scene or culture. Cockneys (Londoners) say that the soul boy look predated the casual or ‘scally’ look in Liverpool and it’s true that there element sof that style associated with both the southern jazz funk and the northern soul scene but these weren’t ‘football’ looks. it was defiantely the scousers (Liverpool and everton) who started it a mass look on the terraces around 78 and 79. By 1980 it had spread throughout the north west of England and then to other cities and the way it was transmitted from city to city and town to town was via football stadiums not via the media or the fashion industry. I think that’s why they’ve laways overlooked it or ignored it as it was entirely organic and they couldn’t control it or define it.

You’re a punk music lover, and many bands oi! had some relationship with football, but never theless, it is assumed that the music of casuals is the Brit-popand electronic music, do you think this is so?

I was into punk from the age of around 13 to 15 or 16, which by that time, it was all over really. I got into Crass and I  also liked The Angelic Upstarts and the Cockney Rejects who were the first real proto’Oi’ bands along with ‘Sham 69’ but I soon got bored with it, especially when gary Bushell became its champion and it became associated with the British Movement and fascists. The scallys by us were all into Kraftwerk, OMD, Human League and also disco and funk music, and I’d been getting into this myself, especially early hip hop and electro which took me back to northern soul and funk, so by the time I was 17 or 18, that was all I listened to.

Casual didn’t have any msucial or political manifesto however, so some were into punk and the jam and mod bands whereas others were into northern soul and jazz funk and some wer einto pink Floyd and frank zappa and some weren’t interested in music. The brit-pop era of the 90s was nothing to do with our generation and the likes of oasis we always regarded as phoney’s acting out hooly images for fans too young to realise the difference. the farm and the happy Mondays were the only two bands who really had any clue but they were derided by the music press as being ‘plumbers’ or ‘scallys’ as if all bands should have a flock of seagull haircuts and wear leather jackets. They are clueless and still are.

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